Judge rejects organization as guardian for homeless veteran

Posted: Thursday, May 02, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A nonprofit corporation that acts as a guardian for people who cannot manage their own affairs has been rejected in attempts to gain further control of the assets of a homeless veteran.

Anchorage Superior Elaine Andrews ruled Wednesday that Community Advocacy Project of Alaska could not represent the man, who has considerable assets but chooses to live on the street.

The performance of CAPA has come under criticism recently, and on Tuesday CAPA announced it was dissolving and reforming under a new name in Fairbanks.

CAPA had tried to blame its troubles on a previous executive director. CAPA's current executive director, Candace Carroll, has accused him in court hearings of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients and the corporation.

Andrews' decision found that the former CAPA head, Mark Layman, ''loaned'' himself and others more than $20,000 from the homeless man's substantial veterans benefits funds. When the Veterans Administration found out, Layman paid most of the money back, she wrote.

Layman has denied stealing money.

The judge also found that problems extended into Carroll's tenure.

Under Carroll, the nonprofit corporation's structure was a ''sham,'' Andrews found. The board consists of Carroll's daughter and son-in-law, who live out of state, and a son who lives with her.

''Of particular concern to this court is Ms. Carroll's insistence, despite the obvious, that as executive director she reports to an independent and reasonably qualified board,'' Andrews wrote.

Carroll did not return telephone calls left by the Anchorage Daily News on an answering machine at CAPA's Fairbanks office Wednesday.

CAPA began managing the man's VA benefits in 1999, with approval from the Veteran's Administration. Last year, it went to court to get permission to also manage his substantial Native corporation payouts.

The veteran's court-appointed attorney challenged CAPA. The state Office of Public Advocacy, which employs public guardians, was given temporary authority over all his finances. But the matter remained unsettled.

To pay for the court fight, CAPA took $15,000 from the homeless man's VA benefits and gave it to its law firm, Cook Schuhmann & Groseclose. When that was challenged in court, CAPA gave the money back.

Trying to use the veteran's money for CAPA's ''own institutional interests'' was wrong, the judge wrote.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday to decide who will handle the veteran's money, and what to do about CAPA's remaining Anchorage cases. There are at least seven.

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